Berkhamsted Castle | The London & Birmingham Railway

Berkhamsted Castle

1839: The London & Birmingham Railway

In the 1830s, the British landscape was being transformed by the Industrial Revolution. The Grand Junction Canal through Berkhamsted opened in 1805, but only 30 years later its financial success was to be eclipsed by a new transport technology: the railway.

Railway engineer Robert Stephenson opened the London and Birmingham Railway in 1837. Its construction was highly unpopular with the landed gentry and the scheme threatened the business interests of canals, stagecoaches and coaching inns, A protest meeting of angry locals took place at the King’s Arms coaching inn in Berkhamsted, but Stephenson’s railway project went ahead. Local landowners did manage to influence the choice of route, and they had the railway line diverted to to run parallel to the canal, avoiding the country estates of Gadebridge and Ashridge.

While the country estates were protected from incursion by the railways, no-one thought Berkhamsted Castle worthy of preservation. The railway line was built right next to the castle, over the ruins of the barbican and the southern part of the moat. The marsh land around the moat was drained, the barbican ruins were cleared away and navvies built up a large embankment. There was no such thing as a scheduled monument in 1837.

The original Berkhamsted station was built on top of the barbican site, near the Castle Street canal bridge. When the railway was widened in 1875, it was replaced with a new station 100m to the west – the building we have today.


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